Mutiny participants: Commanders planned to protest against government

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Ex-high military officers, who were convicted for attempting to overthrow the government in May 2009 Mukhrovani mutiny but were released as political prisoners last year, called a news briefing on 30 January, to comment on a video footage released via YouTube a day before, featuring the process of planning a special operation against mutineers.

According to the then Rangers' Battalion Commander Levan Amiridze, military commanders planned to voice protest against the Georgian government of that time.

"It was crisis [in Georgia] at that time, with three-month long protests [staged by the political opposition demanding that the president step down] underway; Rustaveli Avenue [in the centre of Tbilisi] was declared a town of tents; there were signs that 7 November [2007, when the opposition's weeks-long protest resulted in the break up of the rally by the government] would be repeated. The government intended to start preparations for a military parade [to mark the Independence Day of Georgia on 26 May]. This would require to clear the Rustaveli Avenue from tents and to that end, the force would be used. I was the commander of rangers' special operations battalion. I was well aware of psychology of the leadership and management of that time; I was sure that they would do everything to achieve that aim, which was actually proved by Saakashvili later, on 26 May [2011, when the government dispersed the protest rally] and we saw corpses on a roof of a building. That would have happened in May 2009 too," Levan Amiridze said.

According to yet another former convict-turned-into-political-prisoner Colonel Koba Otanadze, they intended to arrive at the military base in Mukhrovani and then leave, but they were prevented from doing so.

"We arrived at the base and intended to leave. We were unable even to voice our protest. Once we entered the military base, it was instantly surrounded [by law enforcement officers]; that was a planned provocation. We were preparing for protest: journalists were to be invited there and [military] commanders would voice their protest [in the presence of media] and leave the military base in protest and to step down," Otanadze said during the news briefing on 30 January.

For his part, the General Koba Kobaladze said that he was arrested outside his house when he came out to provide commentary to journalists.

"I had no idea what was going on in Mukhrovani base on 5 May 2009. I, personally, was taken out of my house by deceit with the help of journalists; the special operation of my arrest was carried out in front of my house," Kobaladze said.

The video material, recorded during the mutiny by a Georgian Army tank battalion based in Mukhrovani in 2009, was released via YouTube on 29 January. The video shows the planning of the special operation with a group of people in military uniforms, including former chair of the Constitutional Security Department of the Interior Ministry Data Akhalaia, discussing how to act. According to the video material, the then Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili arrives at the scene by helicopter and joins the group.

"Let's question some people, [to find out] which direction they [mutineers] have gone and chase them. I need two men, two corpses, bring me these two corpses. That's it, the bonus will be high," Vano Merabishvili tells the group of people in military uniforms, calling on them to act rapidly and sending them out towards various directions.

The authenticity of this video footage has not been proved yet. A person having uploaded this video has not had any other video uploaded from this YouTube account.

On 5 May 2009, the then Defense Minister Davit Sikharulidze declared that the Georgian Army tank battalion based in Mukhrovani staged a mutiny. Earlier that day, the Interior Ministry released a statement about thwarting a "plan of staging a full scale military mutiny which was coordinated by Russia" and organized by ex-military high officials. The Ministry also released surreptitious recordings showing the process of planning the Mukhrovani mutiny.

According to official version, convicts in organizing the mutiny - Gia Krialashvili, Koba Otanadze and Levan Amiridze, managed to escape from the military base and the police chased after them during 16 days. The Interior Ministry set an award of 50,000 GEL for information on whereabouts of the mutineers. Some time later, the award for the information on whereabouts of Otanadze was increased to 200,000 GEL.

On 21 May 2009, the Interior Ministry released the information that during a special operation conducted a day earlier, a suspect in organizing the Mukhrovani mutiny Gia Krialiashvili was killed whilst two other suspects, Koba Otanadze and Levan Amiridze wounded.

"The fugitives offered armed resistance against the police and during crossfire Gia Krialashvili died whilst Koba Otanadze and Levan Amiridze were wounded. The wounded were arrested and taken to hospital," the Interior Ministry said in that statement.

The investigation into the case of Mukhrovani mutiny ended within nine months. The court sentenced Rangers' Battalion Commander Levan Amiridze to 28 years, Colonel Koba Otanadze to 29 years, and Tank Battalion Commander Shota Gorgiashvili to 19 years in prison. All three convicts pleaded not guilty.

On 13 January 2013, the new government of Georgia released them as political prisoners.

 

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